(Ivan Hardwick photo) Returning salmon in the Horsefly River are creating a lot of excitement for area residents, thrilled to see the strong return.

Sockeye salmon return in droves to Quesnel Lake watershed

Horsefly Salmon Festival set to take place Sept. 15 and 16

Organizers of the Horsefly Salmon Festival have something to celebrate this year.

Residents and visitors of the small rural community are starting to witness what the estimates are predicting — the initial, pre-season forecast of 1.14 million fish for the Quesnel sockeye salmon has been adjusted to 2.156 million.

The return is a relief and a sign of hope to many who have been worried about the struggling run for years.

“This year is insane. It’s wonderful to see so many fish in the river,” said Dina Stephenson, Horsefly resident and one of the organizers of the Horsefly Salmon Festival.

Stephenson said after the lack of salmon returns in 2015 and 2016, festival organizers were considering hosting a “what happened to all the fish festival.”

Judy Hillaby, a retired restoration biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and her husband Bruce moved to Horsefly in 2001 just to be close to the fish she spent her career studying.

“I’m happy that they’re back. This is good news — with all the bad stories out there we need some good news.”

Read More: Quesnel Lake fish study gets green light to continue critical work

So what happened to run in previous years? Hillaby said it’s complicated.

“These things are multi-dimensional. It’s not a straight line. There isn’t a simple explanation,” Hillaby said, noting in fish dynamics, stressed populations go into boom and bust cycles.

“In 2009 the run crashed. There were almost no fish. That was an awful shock and a wake up call,” Hillaby said of the year which prompted the Cohen report into the management of the species.

Hillaby said the numbers have been unpredictable and declining since the last large run in 2005. The run came back a bit in 2010, with a bigger run in 2014 — the same time as the Mount Polley Mine tailings breach.

And now this.

“The patterns have shifted. I have no explanation for that. Here we are in 2018, relieved and forgiven for our sins,” she said.

Read More: Salmon closures a devastating blow to North Coast business

“[When the numbers go down] we are always afraid they will never go up. To witness them is a rush — seeing is believing and this year is going to be on a whole other level.”

Now that the run estimate has almost doubled, a sport fishery for sockeye has even been opened at Horsefly Bay in Quesnel Lake from Aug. 23 to Sept. 15.

“Welcome to fish dynamics. This is a fine example of why you have to be conservative, it’s easy to miss-estimate.”

Hillaby said salmon are a heritage and a keystone species in the local watershed, critical to keeping the watershed productive.

To see them back in such strong numbers is exciting for all involved.

“The mood is happiness and quickly going to excitement. Some of us are over the moon.”

Stephenson said after years of fearing for the future of the fish, the big run is a relief.

“It’s the realization now of how precious these fish and watersheds are to us.”

The Horsefly Salmon Festival is scheduled to take place Sept. 15 and 16 along the banks of the Horsefly River.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Father and 9-year-old son killed in crash north of Williams Lake

RCMP confirm family of five hit by southbound pickup truck that crossed the centre line

Celebrate fall at Bouchie Lake Harvest Festival

Local festival takes place this Saturday as part of Culture Days

Prince George man arrested for manslaughter of 2016 victim

Jeremy John Lowley has been arrested in connection to the death of Patrick Mathewsie

It’s official – City of Quesnel gives Notice of Election

Everything you need to know about how and where to vote in municipal election

Reservations open Oct. 1 for Bowron Lake chain, Berg Lake trail

Back-country travellers can get planning early for 2019 season

AFN national chief suggests moving Trans Mountain pipeline route

Perry Bellegarde said many Indigenous communities believe in the need to diversify export markets

Assault charge withdrawn vs. ex-Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna

Former Toronto play agrees to peace bond

UPDATED: Bill Cosby gets 3-10 years in prison for sexual assault

Judge also declared the disgraced comedian a ‘sexually violent predator’

B.C. making progress on senior care staffing, Adrian Dix says

Minister aims to meet residential care provincial standard by 2021

B.C. realtor receives racist letter touching on ‘empty homes’

The letter has been met with condemnation of the racism after Winnie Wu posted it online

Pawsitive response by B.C. community for 60-plus surrendered cats

Community comes together to help surrendered cats at Penticton SPCA

U.S. worker charged after video shows him spitting on customer’s pizza

Jaylon Kerley of Detroit is charged with a felony count of food law violations

Andrew Weaver congratulates New Brunswick on electing first Green caucus

Election win means there are now three provincial Green Party caucuses in Canada

Around the BCHL: Merritt’s Matthew Kopperud nets Sun Devil scholarship

Around the BCHL is a look at the BCHL and goings-on throughout the junior A world.

Most Read